In recent years there has been a rise in what has become known as Progressive Dispensationalism (PD) (Other labels for PD include “revised,” “reconstructed,” or “new” dispensationalism.). Adherents to PD see themselves as being in the line of normative or traditional dispensationalism, but at the same time, have made several changes and/or modifications to the traditional dispensational system. Thus, PD adherents view themselves as furthering the continual development of dispensational theology. It is also true that progressive dispensationalists seek a mediating position between traditional dispensationalism and nondispensational systems.
The meaning of progressive
According to Charles Ryrie, the adjective ‘progressive’ refers to a central tenet that the Abrahamic, Davidic, and new covenants are being progressively fulfilled today (as well as having fulfillments in the millennial kingdom). According to Craig Blaising, The name progressive dispensationalism is linked to the progressive relationship of the successive dispensations to one another.
Origin of PD
The public debut of PD was made on November 20, 1986, in the Dispensational Study Group in connection with the annual meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society in Atlanta, Georgia. . . . Actually, the label ‘progressive dispensationalism’ was introduced at the 1991 meeting, since ‘significant revisions’ in dispensationalism had taken place by that time. Some view Kenneth Barker’s presidential address at the 33rd annual meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society on December 29, 1981 as the precursor to some of the views of PD. His address was called, False Dichotomies Between the Testaments.
Craig Blaising, Darrell Bock, Robert Saucy, Kenneth Barker, David Turner, John Martin. NOTE: It should not be thought that all who have associated themselves with PD in some way are agreed on all issues. Blaising and Bock have been the most prolific in promoting PD so it is their views that will mostly be examined.
Beliefs of PD
Jesus’ is currently reigning from David’s throne in heaven
According to traditional dispensationalism, Jesus is currently exalted at the right hand of the Father, but He is not sitting on David’s throne nor has His messianic kingdom reign begun yet. Progressive dispensationalism, however, teaches that the Lord Jesus is now reigning as David’s king in heaven at the right hand of the Father in an ‘already’ fulfillment aspect of the Davidic kingdom and that He will also reign on earth in the Millennium in the ‘not yet’ aspect. Thus, according to PD, the Davidic throne and the heavenly throne of Jesus at the right hand of the Father are one and the same. The use of Psalm 110 and 132 in Acts 2 are used to support this claim that Jesus is currently reigning as Davidic King.
HOWEVER, This view is suspect for a number of reasons:
Distinction in thrones. In Revelation 3:21, Jesus makes a distinction between His throne (the Davidic throne) and the Father’s throne (of which He is on now in heaven). Thus, the throne Jesus is currently on (the throne of deity) is different than the one He will assume when the millennium starts (Davidic throne). The writer of Hebrews also indicates that Jesus “sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” not the throne of David (12:2).
Matthew 25:31 places Christ’s seating on David’s throne at the time of the second coming: “But when the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne.”
Acts 2 shows identity not function. In Acts 2, Peter argues that Jesus’ resurrection is proof that Jesus is the King. He does not state that Jesus is currently reigning as King. Acts 2, then, shows Jesus’ identity as King not a present function of His reigning as king. (It should be noted that David was anointed king before His actual reign began.) In fact, nowhere in the NT is Jesus said to be currently reigning as messianic king. His reign is associated with His second coming and Kingdom (see Matt. 25:31; Rev. 11:15; 20:6).
NOTE: PD proponents Blaising and Bock differ somewhat from Saucy on this issue. Blaising and Bock equate the “right hand of God” with “David’s throne” and see a current reign of Jesus as Davidic King. Saucy also equates the right hand of God with the throne of David but does not see Christ ruling from this throne. According to Saucy, being at the right hand of God, i.e. David’s throne affirms the present exaltation of Jesus but not a present function of ruling
Evaluation: There is not enough biblical evidence to show that David’s throne is the same as the right hand of God in heaven. It is best to understand David’s throne as an earthly throne that Christ will assume at His second coming.
The “already” aspect of the Kingdom arrived (and stayed) with the first coming of Christ
Thus, when Jesus said the kingdom of heaven is near this meant the kingdom had actually arrived. HOWEVER:
The kingdom was near in proximity not arrival Saucy, again disagreeing with Blaising and Bock, shows the improbability of this view: “Jesus said this kingdom was ‘at hand.’ Though some scholars have said the term eingiken[near] means that the kingdom had actually arrived, most see it as indicating only that the kingdom had drawn near or was imminent. Kummel says the term denotes ‘an event which is near, but has not yet taken place.’ According to Hill, ‘to declare that the kingdom is at hand means that the decisive establishment or manifestation of the divine sovereignty has drawn so near to men that they are now confronted with the possibility and ineluctable necessity of repentance and conversion.’ Thus in Jesus’ preaching the kingdom had drawn near, but its actual arrival had not yet occurred. The disciples could still be taught to pray for its coming (Matt. 6:10)”.
Kingdom is future. If the kingdom arrived with Jesus’ first coming why did the apostles see the kingdom as future in Acts 1:3-7?
The “already/not yet” unproven: PD sees the kingdom as already here but also awaiting a future fulfillment as well. This already/not yet construct, popularized by C.H. Dodd in 1926, though, is highly suspect. This is evident by the confusion shown by those who accept it. Amillennialists, Covenant premillennialists and PD’s all accept the idea but disagree on the outworking of what is already and what is not yet.